The Man Who Used Concentration Camp Skills To Save POWs

“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.” —Henry Ward Beecher

In A Nutshell

Tibor Rubin survived a German concentration camp as a child. Years later, he joined the US Army to give back to the country that had liberated him. But an anti-Semitic superior officer kept him from getting recognition for his heroic deeds. As a POW during the Korean War, he saved at least 40 of his fellow prisoners from starvation by using the survival skills he’d learned in the concentration camp. Anti-Semitism denied him the honors he was due for 55 years until President George W. Bush awarded Rubin the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2005.

The Whole Bushel

Born in Hungary in June 1929, Tibor Rubin was imprisoned as a child by the Nazis in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. His father died at Buchenwald while his mother and 10-year-old sister died at Auschwitz. Rubin and one brother survived the camps. Another brother fought for the Allies during World War II.

Rubin was always grateful to the US servicemen who liberated him from Mauthausen. In fact, he joined the US Army in 1948 to give back to the country that had freed him. “I always wanted to become a citizen of the United States,” he said, according to the US Army, “and when I became a citizen, it was one of the happiest days in my life . . . When I came to America, it was the first time I was free. It was one of the reasons I joined the US Army because I wanted to show my appreciation.”

From 1950 to 1953, Rubin served in the Korean War as a rifleman in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. During the Battle of Unsan in 1950, his regiment was overwhelmed by a surprise attack from the Chinese. While the other wounded soldiers retreated, Rubin used the last machine gun to fend off enemy troops until he ran out of ammunition.

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Severely wounded, Rubin was taken prisoner by the Chinese. Although the enemy offered to let him go home to Hungary, he chose to stay in the prison camp with hundreds of his fellow soldiers despite the freezing weather and lack of food. Risking torture or even death if the enemy caught him, Rubin sneaked out of the camp at night to raid Chinese gardens and storehouses for food for his starving fellow prisoners. Using survival skills he’d learned in the Mauthausen concentration camp, he bolstered the spirits of the suffering soldiers. “You just cannot give up,” he told them, according to NPR. “I don’t think the Lord is going to help you; he’s only going to help you if you help yourself. You have to try and you have to get home somehow.”

According to the other prisoners with him, Rubin saved at least 40 soldiers from starvation that winter. Despite several nominations for service medals during the next 50 years, he never received formal recognition for his heroic deeds. The paperwork was never submitted correctly. Authorities at the Pentagon believe that an anti-Semitic superior officer denied him the honors he was due.

Finally, at 76 years old, Rubin was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2005.

Show Me The Proof

Featured photo via Wikipedia
NPR: Medal of Honor for Holocaust Survivor, Korea Vet
US Army: Corporal Tibor Rubin, Korean War Veteran
Congressional Medal of Honor Society: Rubin, Tibor

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